Got a query from a gun-noob, somebody who doesn't own one, but apparently wants to get his feet wet.
What would you recommend? he asked.
Kind of like saying, "I'm hungry–what should I eat?" It's kind of a big menu expressed that broadly.
So I answered a question with a question: What do you plan to use it for, this gun? While a particular item of boomware can be put to a variety of uses, one size doesn't fit all, and allowances must be made: Form follows function.
Is it going to be used for hunting? Ducks? Or deer? Bear? Squirrels? An elephant gun isn't so good for rabbits, nor is a squirrel rifle apt to do you much good against a charging rhino.
Shooting competition? What kind? Paper at the indoor range? Ringing steel at the combat bay? Cowboy action? Six hundred yard military? Black powder?
Self defense? At home? On the street? On a battlefield?
The zombie apocalypse? The collapse of Western Civilization?
Paperweight? Wall hanger? What?
Um. Uh ... home protection ... ?
Get a shotgun. 12-gauge pumps are good, but the gauge isn't critical. If you are a small person, there are those that bark quieter and kick less. (In shotguns, the smaller a whole number, the bigger the payload. So 8-gauge is a big honker, 10-gauge still big, 12-gauge the standard duck or riot gun. 16-gauge, 20-gauge, 28-gauge, .410 gauge, all get smaller. You can even get rat- or snakeshot for rifles or pistols, but I wouldn't go that way. Rifled barrels spin the shot too much, and there isn't a lot of it. Enough for a rat or snake.
The sound of a pump shotgun's slide being racked is apt to be terrifying to anybody who thinks there's a nervous person doing that in their direction. Yo, what up, dude, what say we go find a different house to burgle, hey? Little old lady the other end of the hall has got a fuckin' shotgun, and if you want to run down there and take it away, you go right ahead, I'm gone ...
Long guns are easier to aim and control than sidearms, though if you are walking through your house clearing it, having that barrel stick out could be a problem.
Any good shotgun, loaded with birdshot or BBs (and the smaller the number here, the larger the shot size) will turn a home invader's face right to the wall. And small shot is less apt to penetrate a couple of walls and kill your neighbors.
It's not a magic wand. It won't spray like a blunderbuss, because at ranges across the kitchen, the shot doesn't have time to spread very far, so you have to aim the sucker like a rifle. It makes a big hole, but you can't just thrust it in a general direction and hope you hit something. If you can point your finger at somebody's chest, however, you can do that with a shotgun and center-punch them.
If I knew a psychopathic murderer was about to kick in my door with axe uplifted, the weapon I would want in my hands would be a 12-gauge pump shotgun. Though probably a double-barrel would be sufficient. Two for sure ...
(And for those of you who are gun-folk already, lemme ask you the old question: If you had to restrict yourself to one firearm, what would it be? And if you don't already own it, why not?)
If you want a handgun to stick in the lockbox by the bed? Get a .38 Special double-action revolver. Smith & Wesson, Colt, Ruger, Taurus, there are a lot of people who make these, and they are simple to operate. 1) Point the muzzle at the evil-doer. 2) Pull the trigger. 3) Repeat as necessary.
If you need to carry something concealed upon your person for whatever, a handgun works better than a long gun. If you plan to go bird hunting? Yeah, if you are good enough, you can use a handgun, but if you are that good, you don't need any advice from me.
No, a .38 Special is not a rhino-stopper, either, but you needn't worry about safeties, wrist-breaking recoil, nor what condition the weapon is in. Load it, it's ready to rock. There are a lot of more powerful handguns, but five or six rounds from what the police all carried until semi-autos became reliable will give your average burglar-bent-on-mayhem pause.
If you want to be more sure, get a .357 Magnum revolver. It thunders much louder and kicks more, but it does the trick 9.6 times out of 1o. Works the same way as the .38 Special.
But: eight or ten shots from a .22 LR, pistol or rifle will make somebody reconsider his actions, for that. Don't forget the first and most important rule of a gunfight:
Bring a gun.
Yeah, there's no rule says you can have only one gun. But it's like dope, once you get the first one, it's easy to get hooked, so be careful.
If you have no training in use of a firearm, get some. Find a class that lets you put rounds down range, and practice until you are sure of your ability (and the gun's) to hit that at which you aim. You need to know that it will shoot, and where it throws the bullets. This is important. If you can't do that, the gun might as well be a club. Baseball bats are cheaper.